Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Tablet Review


The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is a unique, powerful tablet that Microsoft considers a laptop replacement. The larger screen is beautiful and the artfully designed kick stand can be placed in a number of new positions which all feel incredibly stable. There has been a growing desire to find something that can truly become an all-in-one device for individuals that work within a traditional office and off-site. This device would have to work seamlessly with Microsoft Office and handle the same everyday tasks as a laptop. Many consumers have been down this road before, but usually end up back with the traditional paper and pen accompanied by a laptop. The Surface Pro 3 certainly seems like it could be the real deal. The question is, does it do what Microsoft designed it to and would you purchase it as a laptop replacement?

Hardware and Design

The Surface Pro 3 design is really top notch. Microsoft managed to pack the power and versatility of a laptop into a small tablet form which is lighter than the previous Surface Pro 2. The screen is a beautiful 12 inches in size with 2160 x 1440 pixels and 3:2 aspect ratio. The device is encased in a magnesium shell which has a fine, finished feel to it and weighs 1.76 lbs. The edges are rounded with small vents in the side to let the machine breathe. There is only one USB 3.0 port which is unfortunate considering most laptops contain two to four, but likely not a deal breaker for most consumers. Also note that a microSD card reader and Mini DisplayPort are included.

The real highlight of the Surface Pro 3 is the ability to comfortably deploy this device on your lap. It feels secure in place and the kick stand really does not cause any noticeable discomfort.

One annoyance is how closely the keyboard sits to the screen when magnetized in an upright position. It was difficult at times to touch items on the task bar using a finger. Typing on the keyboard is fine and the larger touch pad was very responsive. The keyboard illuminates which makes working in the dark pain free. You will adjust to the layout and eventually type just as quickly as you would on any other device. Unfortunately, you’ll need to purchase the keyboard separately to really get the full experience.

The front and back cameras are both 1080p and 5.0 megapixels. Compare that to other tablets on the market which typically have 1.5 megapixel front facing and 5.0 megapixel back end cameras. Both cameras looked great while using with Skype.

An aluminum pen which acts as the device stylus is included with purchase. It feels great to use and features a quick launch button for OneNote as well as two buttons for quick erase and select.


Performance and User Experience

We reviewed the 4th generation Intel Core i5 model, but the i3 & i7 models will also be available. The first thing you will notice is the impressive boot up time. Thanks to the SSD drive, Pro 3 boots a full version of Windows 8.1 Pro in less than 5 seconds.

This is the machine Windows 8 was conceived for. The Surface Pro 3 comes packaged with Windows 8.1 and masterfully runs it the way Microsoft originally envisioned it combining touch with a physical keyboard and track pad. The whole experience made Windows feel exciting again.

Microsoft estimates you will get 9 hours of battery life while browsing the web using the Surface Pro 3. The average laptop battery life is between 3-5 hours depending on how it is being used. Many tablets on the market today can reach north of 10 hours. Our tests saw the Surface Pro 3 hold between 6-7 hours through heavy use which is reasonable considering its closer to a laptop in specs. This is still an area that could be improved with future models.

RAM and storage memory will vary depending on the model purchased. Our review model contained 4GB RAM and 128GB of storage. Casual users would be comfortable with this while those interested in running applications like Adobe Photoshop will want the additional RAM.



The app selection in the Windows Store may not be as impressive as Google Play or Apple’s App Store, but there are a number of useful apps available for productivity. Also remember that you’re getting a full functioning version of Windows 8.1 Pro which will run thousands of programs designed for the Windows platform. A number of applications are included and you can also find popular apps like Facebook and Twitter for free in the Windows Store.

OneNote is really the highlight app. Hand written notes have always been a better way to quickly capture thoughts versus typing. The new Surface Pro 3 really takes the ball and runs with this. You can access OneNote simply by clicking the top of the included aluminum pen like you would a retractable pen. OneNote launches and takes you to a blank page. You can walk into a meeting and start taking notes just like you would with a piece of paper and have the added benefit of filing, sorting and referencing all your notes at home or in the office because they are shared via the cloud with SkyDrive. The pen feels very natural on the glass and for that reason photo editing enthusiasts will also want to consider the Surface Pro 3 for Photoshop since Adobe has re-engineered it to be touch-friendly.


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Matt Safford

Matt Safford spends his days testing gadgets and writing about technology. He has written for Popular Science, Smithsonian, Consumer Reports, and Wired.

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